Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved From Drowning

Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved From Drowning

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Park Circus 

Release date: April 4th 2011
Certificate (UK): PG
Running time: 82 minutes

Year of production: 1932

Original language: French with English subtitles
Country of origin: France

Director: Jean Renoir
cast: Michel Simon, Charles Granval, Marcelle Hainia, Severine Lerczinska, Jean Daste, Jean Gehret

French film director Jean Renoir is considered to be among the greats with his films spanning both the silent and talkie era. Known for his long takes and panning shots, his work was also dedicated to presenting realism with strong narrative structures and Boudu Saved From Drowning (Boudu sauvé des eaux), though quite an early film, nevertheless, is no different.

Boudu (Michel Simon), with his unruly beard, scraggly hair, worn out clothes and dirty flat cap is a tramp. His days are spent sitting on park benches and begging for scraps and he’s happy when a passing child gives him five francs to buy himself some bread.

Boudu Saved From Drowning

For the most part though, Boudu is ignored by society and eventually he decides life is not worth living so he flings himself into the river Seine, from the Pont des Arts. While a large crowd gathers on the bridge to watch him drown, it’s bookseller, Edouard Lestingois, (Charles Granval) who jumps in to save him. When he’s resuscitated he’s brought into the Lestingois household where they struggle to help him rise above his class and become bourgeois like them.

Surprisingly, the tramp brings a breath of fresh air to the stuffy household and soon begins to think better of himself as well, especially when he’s given a bath, haircut and new clothes.


  • Image gallery
  • 2010 Theatrical trailer

Fortune seems to be doing more than just smiling at him when he goes on to win 100,000 francs in the lottery and it looks very likely that Boudu is about to become a top member of society with hopes of helping Lestingois run his bookshop.

Boudu Saved From Drowning

Even though it’s filled with funny moments and I never get tired of watching Michel Simon rolling his eyes at the fussing women, Renoir’s film is more than just a comedy. Boudu forever remains ungrateful to Lestingois and despite all efforts; he just isn’t able to be what they expect of him. It’s almost existentialist in the way he realises what he wants to be and how he should go about defining himself rather than letting others do it for him; it’s not so much about his nature because there’s nothing and no one to define it but himself.

Although there have been some memorable tramp movies with Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers and Raj Kapoor in Awaara (1951), there’s always a place for Boudu and this digitally restored version is most welcomed.

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